While December is typically a festive and sometimes hectic time of year, it is also a reflective season.
Perhaps it is a residual effect of the Thanksgiving turkey’s tryptophan, or it is the anticipation of starting the New Year with a clean slate. Whatever the cause, I find myself reviewing the previous eleven months with an analytical eye.
For the past several years I have joined thousands of others in selecting a Word of the Year: one word to help me focus on a particular attribute or virtue for a full twelve months.
One year I chose the word BALANCE. I knew my workaholic life needed a major overhaul, and I thought balance would help me keep things in proper perspective.
What I learned, however, was balance is an elusive goal. Perhaps it can be achieved over the course of several months… but on a day-to-day basis, complete balance between work, family, personal and spiritual life is simply not possible.
But I was not discouraged. I reasoned my true goal was PEACE. Balance, I mistakingly thought, was a means to that end.
So the next year I focused on peace, and it was year of personal spiritual growth.
I had hoped peace would mean a year free from conflict, but I quickly learned true peace only comes from trusting Christ as my personal savior. As long as I kept my eyes on Him, I was at rest.
But if I focused on circumstances, fixating on finances or personal relationships, peace disappeared.
Last year I knew I needed to relax. I am a serious person by nature, always responsible, accountable, and hard working.
While these can be admirable traits, I take them to an unhealthy level. I wanted a word that would help me release anxiety and find joy.
After a bit of word deliberation, I settled on DELIGHT.
I loved the layered meaning of this word. Delight means extreme joy, and I wanted to focus on finding joy in the moment.
The “light” portion of “delight” can refer to weightlessness – learning to let go of things that hold me down and adopting a more carefree lifestyle. I wanted to balance my need for productivity with a need for play – doing what I enjoyed doing simply because it brought me pleasure.
And I love how the word brings to mind the metaphor that Jesus is the Light of the world. By focusing on this word for the year, I also focused on my savior.
As I came to the end of 2015 and reflected on my year of delight, I realized it was a stepping stone to what I really needed: FUN. While I could find the joy in the moment, I was still too serious. I focused too much on being productive and too little on play.
Armed with coloring books, markers, and a resolve to smile more in 2016, I began the year with great intentions.
Then on January 10th I fractured my hip and broke my left humerus (yes… the irony is uncanny).
I kept a positive outlook, however, and healed nicely… until June 26th when I fell once again and broke my right humerus.
As my eldest recently stated, “Mom, your body literally rejected the idea of fun.”
So much for the “fun” of 2016. This weekend I began my annual self-reflection. I’m still too serious. I still work to find joy in the moment. I still struggle to play.
Which word would help me overcome these weaknesses, while at the same time focus on my need for physical healing?
At first I thought RELEASE might be appropriate – let go of my constant need to be productive and my impossible pursuit of perfection.
I then pondered the word INTENTIONAL. The second accident taught me to slow down and be mindful of my actions rather than going through life on automatic pilot.
Lately I’ve discovered self-talk is a hindrance to spiritual growth. I cannot love others because I do not love myself. I need to guard my thoughts and bring them in line with God’s love.
Words such as TRANSFORM or RENEWAL seemed to address those concerns. But ultimately, I settled on the word NOURISH.
The definition is spot on for this time in my life: to supply what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to strengthen, build up, and promote.
NOURISH is all-encompassing and I believe it is necessary to bring this broken body back to wholeness.
I need to nourish my physical body through regular exercise and nutritional diet. No excuses, no cheating. I want the time I have left on this earth to be quality life, not mere existence.
I need to nourish my mental health through accurate thoughts of God’s love for me – just as I am. God calls us to love others as ourselves, but I cannot obey this command until I learn self-acceptance. This will strengthen my spiritual health as well.
And I need to nourish my emotional health by pursuing creative endeavors simply because they bring me joy – no productivity goal needed.
NOURISH. I love the sound of the word. The long, lingering vowel reminds me to slow down and rest. The quiet “sh” at the end literally tells me to be still and listen to the Lord’s quiet guidance.
Do you have a word for the year?
©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope
Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.